Better Lives for People in Leeds

Keep on spreading the word about safeguarding and protecting

In his latest ‘Deputy Blog’, Dennis Holmes talks about the recent ‘Doing nothing is not an option’ safeguarding campaign.

Did you see them?

The prevention of adult abuse campaign took to the streets over the summer with posters and banners in areas of high footfall for maximum impact. It sent forth subtle messages about the various forms of abuse, how to recognise it, and what to do about it.  At a stroke, the issue of adult protection travelled beyond its traditional home as an internal Adult Social Care services matter, to the ‘outside world’ and thereby harnessed a new and powerful safeguarding army – the general public.

Now led by the whole council, not just the Adult Social Care directorate, the new ambition is to task every member of our community with a responsibility to be watchdogs acting on behalf of vulnerable people.  This is supported by the new Care Act, which for the first time makes adult safeguarding a statutory function of local authorities.

Children’s safeguarding has been a high-profile issue for some time for both good and bad reasons.  With Winterbourne View and other serious adult safeguarding cases coming to light more recently, a cross-portfolio safeguarding community has emerged with a strong message that safeguarding is everyone’s business.

For the first time, the Adult Safeguarding Board’s Annual report was presented this year to the council’s principal decision-making body, the Executive Board, for discussion in a public meeting.  It’s no accident that the report was considered side-by-side with the annual report of the Children’s Safeguarding Board.  And no surprise that the two reports were picked up in the local press, which noted that reports of suspected abuse were rising because of increased awareness among care staff and the public.

Through the poster campaign, Facebook, blogs and local print and radio media, our message is getting there.  There are posters all over Leeds and many thousands of people will have seen the ones at the bus station.  The #keepleedssafe hashtag was used 56,817 times in the first week of the campaign alone.

Behind the campaign are the lives of real people who are suspected to be at risk of abuse in some form or another.  They are people whose circumstances make them vulnerable and who will now enjoy greater protection, because someone not only cared enough to metaphorically blow the whistle, but also knew how to do it, thanks to the messages in our campaign.

Meanwhile, colleagues in the Community Safety Partnership are working to address the significant rates of referral in relation to instances of domestic abuse.  As with adult protection, greater awareness and willingness to report suspected episodes, is now seeing many hundreds of referrals a week being filtered by our police colleagues.  Adult social care staff, as with colleagues in children’s services, have a role to play in helping identify the most appropriate means of supporting and protecting victims and, at the same time as addressing the behaviour of perpetrators.

Collectively, in adults and children’s social care and community safety, we put a lot of work into ‘learning the lessons’ from those cases that sometimes – mercifully infrequently – go tragically wrong.  I want to make sure that we put the learning points from all those cases into simple messages that we include in how we do things.

Our campaign has now ended, but the message must continue.  You, and I, and our networks of colleagues and friends can keep on spreading the word to safeguard and protect people whose circumstances, for whatever reason, leave them vulnerable to abuse or exploitation.  It’s a responsibility, but also a privilege and an opportunity to make Leeds a safer place than it is now.

Doing nothing is not an option.

Dennis Holmes
Deputy Director, Adult Social Care Services